Maritime law and policy
In modern shipping laws, the key legislation to comply with is developed and regulated by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which was created by the United Nations in 1958. The IMO focuses on improving safety at sea by developing international regulations that are followed by all shipping nations. It also sets out a number of international conventions specifically aimed at maritime safety, such as the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS).
When a country adopts the rules of a specific convention, they are enforced through the nation’s courts. It is therefore down to the Government of each country to develop national laws to enforce the IMO conventions on ships that it flags. Most maritime law is adopted by all seafaring nations, but where the international law comes into conflict with national law, the national law of the country the ship is flagged to will be followed. For example, a ship flying a British flag will follow UK maritime law wherever she is located.
The ISM code
The key code for any ship operator is that of the International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention (ISM), which established a global standard for the safe management and operation of ships. The objectives of the code are:
- To ensure safety at sea;
- Prevention of human injury or loss of life; and
- Avoidance of damage to the environment, in particular the marine environment and property.
The ISM Code requires us to operate a Safety Management System (SMS), covering the following key areas:
- A safety and environmental protection policy;
- Instructions and procedures to ensure the safe operation of ships;
- Defined levels of authority and communications between ship and shore;
- Accident and non conformities reporting procedure;
- Emergency situation response plans; and
- Internal audit and management review procedures.
For further information the IMO has produced a document detailing the information resources available.
Complying with the law
Managing all of these elements effectively within National Marine Facilities Sea Systems ensures that our ships operate safely, effectively and within the limits of maritime law. Our compliance with the code is audited annually by the UK Maritime and Coastguard Authority (MCA), which issues a Document of Compliance, giving us a licence to operate.
The SMS incorporates compliance with the following conventions:
- International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS)
- International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL)
- London Dumping Convention
- International Convention on Load Lines
- Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collision at Sea (COLREGS)
- International Convention on Standards of Tainting, Certification and Watch Keeping for Seafarers (STCW)
- International Labour Office Convention 147
- International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code